Dimes and dreams

Rider aims for Olympics --no matter the cost

Dreams sometimes come with price tags, and Erin Simmons has no idea what her dreams will cost.

Simmons competes in boardercross, the equivalent of auto racing on a snowboard. Her sport isn't high profile like freestyle snowboarding or skiing but, after an international vote last spring, boardercross will make its Olympic debut in 2006.

Simmons is a Canadian citizen but not currently on the national team. In other words, she is responsible for all her travel and competition expenses.

Two Steamboat Springs-based companies, Powder Pursuits owned by Chris Smith and World Class Aviation Charter Company owned by Randy Reed, have shown an interest in helping Simmons pursue her Olympic dreams.

Simmons, who lives in Steamboat, has printed up resumes and begun to promote herself to companies, but she has difficulty talking about herself, particularly in a positive light.

"I'm a little more motivated, now," Simmons said. "Do I want to go to the Olympics? Yes, I do."

Simmons also is more confident because she is proving to others -- and more importantly, herself -- that she is one of the world's best female boardercross athletes.

When boardercross was given the Olympic go-ahead, Simmons decided to join the World Cup tour overseen by the International Ski Federation, or FIS, which governs skiing and snowboarding.

In the past two World Cup races held in Arosa, Switzerland, Simmons finished in the top 10, including a seventh-place showing Jan. 17.

"Every race, I still get nervous, but it's different," Simmons said.

"The last couple of races I've been able to actually eat breakfast."

Simmons is 14th in the overall standings and the second best Canadian on the World Cup circuit behind Dominique Maltais.

But Simmons has had to make sacrifices along the way. At 27, she is extremely independent, living away from her family and essentially funding herself. Instead of spending the past summer at Mount Hood, Simmons had to work to make enough money to help get her through the hectic winter competition schedule.

"I can do this," she said. "My plan is to do the best I can do even if I'm $10,000 in debt. Not that I want to go in debt, but I mean, how many people get to go to the Olympics?"

No one has ever gone to the Olympics in boardercross. Simmons, who wears a Steamboat sticker on her helmet, may be on Canada's inaugural boardercross team when the sport debuts in Torino, Italy, in 2006.

Simmons was born in British Columbia and began skiing at 2 on the slopes of Whistler Mountain before switching to a snowboard in 1989. She moved to Colorado four years ago and has lived and trained in Steamboat for the past two years.

"I want to represent a mountain, and I want that mountain to be Steamboat," Simmons said.

She returns to World Cup action in late February in Japan.

Meanwhile, Simmons is in Aspen taking part in the X Games. In Friday's qualifying round, Simmons finished sixth to move into Sunday's semifinals. Semifinals, consolations and final rounds are scheduled for 2 to 3:15 p.m. on Buttermilk Mountain.

ESPN will be televising live from 1 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday.

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